Bjarni Magnússon, district commissioner on Grímsey island, Iceland’s northernmost inhabited island which lies directly on the Arctic circle, said he has never seen as many guillemot (murre) eggs in the island’s sea cliffs—he should know, he has fetched eggs from the cliffs since 1943.
Magnússon told Morgunbladid that the number of guillemots on the island has increased considerably in the past years. “The waters around the island and the channel are filled with capelin. The bird was unusually early this year.”
It is a tradition in Grímsey, as in other regions in Iceland where seabirds nest in cliffs, to go egg collecting in the spring. The egg collectors are lowered over the edge of the cliffs on a rope. Magnússon has already been egg collecting twice this spring with his son.
Egg collecting in Grímsey.
At 81, Magnússon is still not fazed by the hazardous practice. He has been egg collecting every summer since 1943 when he was 13.
He is now waiting for his brother to join him on the next mission. Sigmundur Magnússon is 86 and beats his brother by three years in egg collecting experience. He comes from Akureyri every spring to participate in the fun.
The birdlife in Grímsey. Photos by Páll Stefánsson.
Guillemot eggs are considered a delicacy in Grímsey as in many other regions across Iceland.
Click here to read Magnússon’s account of the island’s Arctic tern colony and here to read a feature on Grímsey.